What stops you?

“If you have the ability to help, and you know there are ways you can make a positive difference, and if you are able to do it, I don’t quite understand not…”

Eddie Vedder

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on gratitude and the power of living a grateful life. It’s not because it is almost Thanksgiving (although that is a good time for everyone to pause and be grateful) but just a continuing realization and appreciation for just how blessed and privileged I have been throughout my life.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in a Q&A session between Keith Block (Co-CEO of Salesforce) and Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam). Eddie said a lot of great things but the quote above really stood out to me (as well as a few of the others I will share below.) This was the fourth or fifth time over the past several weeks where I have heard a “give back” or “help others” message. I have found in life that when a bunch of seemingly unrelated experiences happen to convey a similar message that I really need to sit up and pay attention.

So what exactly does this mean? I have no idea. But helping others, doing for others, living a life for others with a spirit of gratitude and understanding for all that we have been blessed with is so rewarding.

Why do we turn a blind eye to the needs of others? Why do we step past a person on the street who is homeless and hungry? Why do we find ways to do things for ourselves but yet we can’t find five minutes to reach out to friends or family to let them know we are thinking about them? When did we move from being a society that was thankful for simple blessings and become a society obsessed with the relentless pursuit of more?

Eddie shared several thoughts yesterday that really struck home with me as I reflect on blessings and ways to give back. Here are some of the ones that stood out to me:

“In our DNA we are hunters and gatherers. It’s not hunters, gatherers and hoarders.”

“It just seems like you the more you give, the more you get in return.”

“If you have the ability to help, there’s always going to be a way you can make a positive difference.”

Life on this earth is short and temporary. Tomorrow is never promised and As I wrote about yesterday we are truly here on this earth to help and love others. What greater gift is there to live a life of gratitude on a daily basis and find a way every day to do something for someone else, with no expectation of anything in return? What is stopping you from helping someone, anyone, today?

Your true purpose…

“The sole reason we are here is to help someone else.”

Tim Cook

The context behind this quote is on realizing our true purpose in life. I had the opportunity yesterday to see a conversation between Tim Cook & Marc Benioff while attending Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual conference). Tim was speaking about our purpose in life and how it took him a long time to realize his purpose, and not just his individual purpose, but the collective purpose of all humanity. His sentiment was that once you realize that the purpose of being on this earth was to help others that it is the most liberating and revelatory awareness one can have.

What if everyone realized this, and behaved accordingly? What if every single person treated others with dignity and respect? What if we all made it our purpose today to find someone and help them? How different would our world be tomorrow?

Instead of being burdened today by what you do, go find a way to help someone else. You just might find that you are fulfilling your true purpose…

Something new…

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail Adams

What are you planning to learn today? What are the opportunities ahead of you to gain new knowledge? Do you have a plan? If not, then just use two simple questions to bring focus to your learning.

First, begin your day with this question. “What do I want to learn today?”

Second, At the conclusion of the day ask yourself the follow up, “what did I learn today?”

I use a digital journal to keep up with these questions but use whatever method works for you. Just be sure you are learning!

Without intentional focus on learning, growth is accidental. That’s no way to live. That is just survival and existence. There is so much more to life than just existing. Learn something new!

Unlock greatness…

“The greatest leaders are not necessarily the ones who do the greatest things. They are the ones that inspire others to do great things.”

Ronald Reagan

An important aspect of leadership is the unlocking of the hidden and untapped talents in others. No one person can do everything or be the source of all great things. Inspiring others is an incredible multiplier that makes the impossible possible. Focus on helping others find their potential and you will help unlock greatness.

Taken for granted…

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

G.K. Chesterton

There is such a distinct difference between living a life of gratitude and any other kind of life. A life of gratitude fuels a positive spirit and an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us. But it is so easy to take things for granted.

Make a list today of 10 things that you know that you take for granted. Be specific. You aren’t going to share this list (unless you want to) so be honest with yourself. Now study that list. Is there something on that list that someone else does for you to whom you could go and express your gratitude? If so, do it.

Next think of the biggest challenges or obstacles that you are facing. What are the things that are causing you to have doubt and worry? Now look at your list again. Given the things that you have that you are taking for granted in life does the challenge seem quite as large?

If you have your health, you have so much more than many people. If you have love, you have more than many. If you have food to eat and water to drink, you have more than most of the world has had throughout human history. What do you have to be grateful for today?

Give it all away…

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is precious and short. It will end at some point for all of us. How you live each day will determine the depth of your life regardless of the breadth. I have come to realize that there are two simple axioms that should frame how you live. First, rid yourself of all anger and resentment. Second, give away all your gifts of self as soon as you can.

First, there is an old saying about anger has been attributed to a number of people over the years. “Hanging on to anger or resentment is like taking a poison and expecting the other person to die.” It is sad to see people that are so busy being hurt that they can’t see the joy in the world and in their own lives. Resentment hurts no one but yourself. Let it go. Strip yourself of it in every way and do what it takes to forgive or forget, ideally both if possible.

Second, hanging on to a gift or a kindness of self and not giving it is like buying a present for someone and putting it on the shelf. If you don’t give it there will be a time when you no longer can. All the great intention in the world isn’t the same as giving the gift. This is a time when the saying “it’s the thought that counts” truly doesn’t apply. If you have a kindness to give; give it. These gifts of self are perishable, the difference is that you don’t know when exactly they will spoil.

Don’t hang on to either your anger or your gifts. One will kill you, the other will cause regret at some point in life. You can’t get the time back.

Life’s too short not to laugh!

“Laughter heals all wounds, and that’s one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.”

Kevin Hart

Laughter truly is the best medicine. No matter what the situation is, laughter can make it so much better. I am genuinely sad for those that don’t get to experience the wonderful pain of laughing so hard that your sides hurt.

Find a friend, share a laugh (or two), your life will be so much richer.

A bird in the hand…

“You don’t need more opportunity.  You need to learn to execute on the opportunities you already have.”

Michael Hyatt

What is the opportunity just sitting there waiting to be embraced? What is preventing you from doing so? Sometimes it is easier to get excited about the “new” opportunity than it is to do embrace the one’s that are already on your plate.

Perhaps the old adage of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” applies here…

Bring the heat…

“The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.”

Richard Nixon

Do you embrace that challenges and circumstances before as things that are happening ‘to you’ or ‘for you’?

If you view yourself as a blank of steel then you know that the entirety of life is the forge. There are periods of great heat and pressure, and their are times of cooling and rest. It is the continual working of the steel through these seasons that produces the final product. The final product is one of which the artisan is proud of and trusts to perform when called upon.

Life is all a matter of perspective and choice. Are you the steel or are you the impure metals that are removed during the refining and forging process? I am reminded of one of my favorite scripture verses as I meditate on this quote.

‘Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,’ Romans 5:3-4

Are you embracing the life that is happening for you or lamenting what is happening to you? Be steel, welcome the heat.

To win, you must conquer self…

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”

Og Mandino

What is your purpose? How hard are you willing to push yourself to achieve that end? Will you go past your comfort zone? Will you intentionally set aside ease and comfort and “strain your potential until it cries for mercy?”

It is one thing to know your purpose, it is entirely another to embrace the hard and necessary work to achieve that end, no matter how many obstacles you encounter along the way.

I have found through life that the biggest impediment in my path of achieving purpose is principally myself. It is always easier to take the path of least resistance. It is always easier to stop early, to let a little bit of the remaining work wait until tomorrow. It is always easier to find an excuse of why something won’t work instead of soldiering on getting it done, no matter what.

To become the highest mountain, to achieve your God-given purpose in life means that you must overcome the drag of this world and never buy into the reasons why something can’t or won’t work. It means you have to look in the mirror and realize that the single most important obstacle to overcome is yourself.

Are you willing to push yourself hard and farther every single day? Are you willing to go so hard that you will cry for mercy? If the answer is “no,” then you either haven’t discovered your true purpose or you have surrendered to becoming a grain of sand.

Don’t surrender to your own desire for comfort and ease, push through and become a victor over self. No one knows the enemy better than you do. You are uniquely situated to conquer the enemy, you just have to make the choice to do so.

For those who served…

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Thucydides

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

Abraham Lincoln

One of the principle regrets or “misses” in my life is that I didn’t take take the opportunity to serve my country. I didn’t have the honor to wear a uniform and take an oath that so many of our brothers and sisters have done in the name of freedom. It will always be one of my disappointments.

I chose two quotes today intentionally. The first quote to call out the bravery and courage that our service men and women take on when they put on their uniform and choose to protect our freedoms. THANK YOU.

I choose the second quote as a reminder to myself that even without having put on a uniform I have an obligation to do all I can to support those who are serving. To all those that give above and beyond to ensure that our Veteran’s are celebrated and supported not just on Veteran’s Day but every day of the year, THANK YOU.

We have the incredible gift of freedom because of the courage of those who stand in the gap to defend us each and every day. THANK YOU.

Embrace the taper…

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”

Mark Black

It seems to be harder to relax and disconnect now than at anytime in history. There is always a distraction, there is always more to be done, there is always something calling for your attention. True relaxation can be very hard to find and it can be hard to justify the time when the “to do list” just keeps getting longer and longer.

But sometimes it is the ability to find relaxation that brings to your mind and body exactly the peace that is needed to create the solution for whatever it is that you are seeking to achieve. We aren’t wired to be “on” 100% of the time. Our souls need rest and when we give ourselves the grace to accept and embrace that rest it is amazing what we can accomplish.

Some of my best work has happened during, or immediately after, I have given myself permission to disconnect and relax. I have to remind myself to take the time, it is far easier to just keep the nose to the grindstone and continue working, but that is so counter productive in the long term.

I remind myself that if I were training for a long endurance race I wouldn’t go do a brutally hard workout the day before the marathon. Instead I would follow my training plan and taper down my workouts leading up to the big race.

The same is true of life. We need times of intense training and growth but we also need to build in periods of rest so that we can perform at our optimum level when it really counts. Embrace the taper, make it part of your life plan, it will be the launching pad for incredible results.

Listen to your gut…

“There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate–when a particular course of action just feels right. And interestingly I’ve discovered it’s in facing life’s most important decisions that intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right.”

Tim Cook

Sometimes all the preparation, logic and knowledge in the world doesn’t give you enough information to make a necessary decision. And there are other times when you know that you don’t have enough information but yet the decision seems easy.

I have learned in life that ignoring my gut or intuition is fraught with peril. I can’t think of a time in life where I have had a gut sense about something, and then ignored that feeling, when it didn’t come back to haunt me. The intuition is an amazing thing, but one has to have the ability to listen to it and pay attention to what your gut is telling you.

Now I am not saying that paying attention to your gut means that you let your intuition make all your decisions and you can just ignore the data and put off doing the work to ensure you have the right information at hand. However, there are times when you need to really listen to what your gut sense is telling you.

The key is to be in tune with your inner dialogue and hone your listening skills. If you don’t take the time to listen, you can’t pay attention to something that no one else can provide, your own gut instincts…

Why & What, Not Who…

“Ownership: ‘A commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.”

John G. Miller

So much energy is lost in this world by pointing the fingers at others. Blame is a pervasive and insidious leech that sucks the energy from where it truly belongs, the solution.

To combat this and instill ownership in your thinking focus on the “why“and the “what” never the “who.” Focusing on whom to blame is a recipe for negativity and wasted efforts. Instead ask yourselves these questions when faced with a problem or a challenge.

“Why” – Why did this happen? Why are we here where we are today?

“What” – What are we to learn from this? What are we going to do about it?

I guess there could be an appropriate use of “who” but instead of in the context of “who is to blame” it should be “who can help solve this problem?”

Make why and what the key focus and put blaming others completely out of your mind. It is a waste of time and leads to pervasive negativity. Life is too short for that.

Four fingers…

“When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.”

Louis Nizer

I have written before about the power of ownership and owning vs. renting. The attitude of ownership says that one has some type of control over EVERYTHING that happens within their world. Is this literally true? Of course not, you can’t control the weather. But you can control how you dress for the weather or what activities you are taking part in.

If you can’t define the outcome of some situation or challenge, you can choose how you react to it. Choosing to point fingers and make it someone else’s fault is sidestepping both responsibility and accountability. If you want to live a life that embodies the ownership ethos then start by examining the four fingers that are pointing back yourself. That is where the power of growth can be harnessed. No ever grows or improves by pointing a finger at others.

Legacy…

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”

Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

What is the legacy you want to leave behind? I have heard some say that they don’t care about their legacy, that it isn’t important to them. I feel sorry for those people because they haven’t experienced the joy of giving, the value in serving others over self, the priceless gift of seeing others perpetuate that same spirit of giving to others.

I am reminded of this verse from Luke on greed and serving oneself. “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke‬ ‭12:15‬

What is the defined and intentional legacy you want to leave? Do you have a plan to make it happen? Are your thoughts, words, actions and behaviors attuned to that desire? If not then what needs to change? No matter what, you will leave a legacy, what do you want it to be about?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬


Take action!

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Do you need to know all the results of your actions in order to make the actions worthwhile?

What if you can never know how many lives your actions touched or who’s life is changed forever? Does that make the action less worthy in some way?

Of course not. Do the work, take the action, make a difference. Results matter, taking action matters more.

Three things…

“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”

Laozi

Yesterday I wrote about the power of understanding your values and letting them determine you thoughts, words, actions, & habits. I chose this quote because I think it captures elegantly three values that are hard for me to argue with in any way.

Admittedly I don’t always do a good doing these but I need to hold myself accountable to creating thoughts, words, actions and habits that reflect the transformative power gentleness, frugality and humility can have on lives, both yourself and others…

What are my values?

“Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

There is so much wisdom in this quote. Each sentence can and should be unpacked and thought through with great care and intention. To turn this into action begin with the last sentence and work through this question:

What are my values?

Once you have captured these clearly then you can attack the sentences in order but always through the lens of your values.

Are my thoughts reflective of my values?

Are my words reflective of my values?

Are my actions reflective of my values?

Are my habits reflective of my values?

Are my values reflective of the legacy I want to leave?

To live a life of authenticity one must start with the values and build everything up from that. Otherwise life is happenstance and accidental. Which is no way to live.

Say thank you…

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.”

Gertrude Stein

Close your eyes. Think of one person who did something for you in the past 24-hours that you haven’t thanked. Now open your eyes. Take action to express your gratitude within the next hour. Write a note, send a text, pick up the phone, walk next door and find the person. Just don’t delay.

Say what needs to be said, who knows, you might change that persons entire day.

Tear it down…

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Bruce Lee

One doesn’t become stronger without first becoming weaker. One can’t become more without first becoming less.

At first glance this goes against our modern culture. We want life to be instagram perfect and easy. Society emphasizes the value not of the struggle, but of the reward. But the “rewards” are earned through the difficult times.

For example, to improve the fitness in your body you must first weaken it. If you lift weights you intentionally stress and tear down the muscles, that is what allows them to grow and become stronger and more powerful. If you don’t endure the stress and difficult work, the muscles will atrophy and diminish in power. The difficulty is NECESSARY for growth.

The same thing applies to life. What are the difficulties in your life right now that are strengthening you? What are the challenges that are tearing you down so that you can grow back stronger and more powerful?

One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ‘ Philippians 4:13

I used the think of this as a powerful reminder that when the times get tough I can lean on God for strength and perseverance. That is still true but now I realize that it has a larger meaning. God can be the “strength coach” of my life, pushing me into places I didn’t know I needed or wanted to go. Tearing me down, so that I can be built back up as a better and more whole self.

Embrace the difficulties and recognize that they can be some of the very best things that will ever happen FOR YOU. Because it is through the tearing down that the growth occurs…

Swing the bat…

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

Babe Ruth

Fear leads to hesitation and when you hesitate you miss the opportunities that come your way (like a hanging curve ball). When you miss the opportunities that is when you really strike out.

Swing the bat. You might strike out, but at least you are swinging…

Willing to fail…

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”

Brene Brown

Steve Jobs is the first person that comes to mind for me as a great innovator and creator. But he had many many failures along the way, and learned from each of them. Those failures are what allowed him to become great.

The great innovators are willing to take risks because they know they will learn from both failure and success. Not everything they attempt will work, but they are willing to fail.

Are you willing to fail? Are you willing to fall short and then figure out why? Are you able to set aside ego and fear long enough to stretch outside your comfort zone? Are you willing to fail in order to learn?

If you aren’t willing then you won’t stretch, you won’t grow, you won’t create. If you want to innovate you have to be willing to fail because failure will happen and that is when the real magic can occur.

Believe…

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”

Bruce Lee

No one who has ever won anything did so believing that they couldn’t win. There might have been doubts along the way. They might have faced demons and challenges that caused them to have momentary lapses in belief, but they never ever gave up.

Those that win believe. In order to win, you have to believe. It is that belief that gives you the necessary drive and discipline to persevere when the doubts attack. It is that belief that gives you the strength to overcome any setback and any challenge. For it is how you handle the setbacks and challenges in life that truly defines who you are, and your ability to win.

Those that win believe they can win, and they do what it takes to get it done.

Seek accountability…

“People want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”

Howard Schultz

If you are accountable for the problem then you have a responsibility to solve it and the necessary imperative to find a way to get the authority to act on it.

Most people don’t seek accountability, instead they run the other way. To make a difference seek to be accountable, that is what brings responsibility and authority.

There is enough trouble…

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Mark Twain

How do you achieve the right balance between thinking things through and anticipating problems and challenges, and getting lost worrying about the things you can’t control?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in something that might happen, or might not, and lose all sense of what is good and what is true. I am guilty of this far too often. When I get lost in my troubles, real or imagined, this is the verse that I turn to to help me break free from incessant worry.

‘”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

It is amazing how much your perspective can shift if you seek to embody this principle. There is no need to borrow trouble from tomorrow and lose yourself worrying about things that might not happen. It doesn’t add value and it bogs you down.

Who is in the arena with you?

“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Brene Brown

I heard this quote referenced by someone that I really respect yesterday and had to go look it up. Specifically the quote that she referenced was: “if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” I love that last sentence but I think I appreciate the wisdom in the prior lines just as much.

It is so easy for people to get in the arena and feel that they have the right to criticize and attack simply because they are present. Don’t believe this is true? Sit in any football stadium in America and listen to the fans around you. You will hear things like “that referee is blind,”“the quarterback missed a wide open receiver, he can’t throw the ball,” and “the coaches don’t know what they are doing.” Are the fans right? Maybe sometimes they are. But they aren’t the ones on the field. They don’t have the pressure of having to perform in front of others, they can simply sit there and offer input without having had to invest any blood, sweat or tears. Now I have been guilty of doing this plenty of times myself and unfortunately it isn’t just when I have been at a sporting event…

I believe that the most beautiful wisdom in the quote is contained in the lines right before the part about getting your ass kicked: “The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives.

Who are you letting into your life? Who are you giving permission to provide feedback that truly matters and is meaningful? Are those people in the arena with you?

There are really two ways a person can be in the arena. They can be there in the literal sense, side by side in the fight. Or they can be there with you in spirit fighting alongside you and supporting your struggle. The key is that they are fighting with you, not attacking you. They are on your side. If they aren’t then they truly aren’t in the arena with you, or perhaps they are, they are just on the other side of the sword…

The arena quote that Brene is pulling from is one of my all time favorites and I have a copy of it on a plaque in my office that I reference regularly. Here it is in it’s entirety:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

Don’t compromise…

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.”

Henry David Thoreau

In order to be “true to your work, your word, and your friend” one must first have a full and clear understanding of what is most important in your life. What are the “non-negotiables” that form the bedrock of what you believe and define your decisions and your behaviors?

Find work that aligns with those principles. Don’t compromise.

Let your words always match those principles, even when it is hard to say what needs to be said. Don’t compromise.

Choose your friends based on aligned principles and values. Don’t compromise.

Doing these things is what allows you to be true and live a life of authenticity. Don’t compromise, because if you do, you aren’t being true.

Thinking before speaking…

“Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak. Probably so we can think twice.”

Bill Watterson

There is nothing better than a few moments of silence before one responds and commits to words what are often half-baked thoughts. I am a person who “thinks out loud” and that can often lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication.

The best advice I was ever given regarding thinking before speaking came from a class I took through Ty Boyd called the Executive Speaking Institute. During this class, which I took almost ten years ago, I learned that the moments I paused before responding to a question didn’t feel nearly as long or painful to the audience as they did in my head. That was a profound lesson for me. What I thought was a strength, being quick on my feet and having answers at the tip of my tongue, came across as a weakness because I would answer questions in a rambling or long-winded fashion.

Taking a moment to pause, frame the my response in my head and then answering the question conveyed to the audience that I was carefully considering the question, that it was meaningful and valuable, and it gave me the time to not let my words get ahead of my mind. This was incredible perspective and applies to so many areas of life.

The moral of the story here is that the moments that you take to think before you speak don’t feel nearly as long to the person that you are speaking with as they do to you. And those precious moments allow you to (hopefully) think through your response before you commit to words a thought that is only half baked.

Give to receive…

“Try to help others. Consult their weaknesses, relieve their maladies; strive to raise them up, and by so doing you will most effectually raise yourself up also.”

Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Why do you serve others? Is it to help them or yourself? Ultimately, when you give, you receive…

Were you able to help someone today?

Leadership presence…

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Sheryl Sandberg

My very first boss and mentor once told me that it is the number one responsibility of a leader to ensure that they never need to be indispensable in order for the team to be successful.

In fact, a leader should do everything they can to coach, train, and empower those that they serve so that their individual presence isn’t a requirement for operational success but is instead an additive factor for strategic success.

How do you know if you are delivering on this key leadership premise?

I have found that the types of questions you ask, and that your team members ask you, to be an excellent barometer of success for a leader.

First, are the questions you are asking meant to direct or manage the operational efforts of your team members or are they meant to help them grow in their capabilities? Do you ask more open-ended questions or closed yes/no questions?

Second, Are the questions your team members are asking seeking permission or insight? Are they asking questions on what or how to do something or are they asking for perspective and input on their own thoughts and ideas? If they are asking permission based questions then your presence will be required for ongoing success and that is a recipe for leadership failure.

If you are leading effectively, then you don’t need to be physically present all the time for the right things to happen and for the right decisions to be made. Your leadership influence is presence enough…

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